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Loras professor: Pope seems to be creating space for LGBTQ community in church

Published: Oct. 23, 2020 at 6:34 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Dr. Jacob Kohlhaas, an associate professor in moral theology at Loras College, calls Pope Francis' recent endorsement of same-sex civil unions an expression of a personal opinion.

The pope’s endorsement came in a documentary released in Rome on Wednesday. According to the Catholic News Agency, the Pope said, “Homosexual people have a right to be in a family. They’re children of God and have a right to a family. What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered.”

Dr. Kohlhaas says it doesn’t mean there’s any change to the Catholic understanding of marriage, however, he does say it’s significant.

“It’s in disagreement with a 2003 judgment by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that very clearly says Catholics cannot support civil unions,” Dr. Kohlhaas said. “What’s really interesting is the Pope is framing the question in a very different way than that document had.”

He calls it a change in conversation.

“Do you think this is creating a space for the LGBTQ community in the church, maybe not in the way of marriage, but is that something you see?” asked reporter Jay Greene.

“That’s exactly what it seems the Pope is attempting to do here,” Dr. Kohlhaas replied.

Dr. Kohlhaas says the Pope’s reference to a ‘family’ is a metaphor for the church.

“So he’s saying, they have a right to be part of the ‘the family’ and everybody deserves a family, so what he’s saying is ‘welcome them into the community of the church.’ He’s not saying civil unions are the foundation of a family."

He says it’s a matter of protecting people in relationships that are vulnerable, and the Pope is separating that from issues framed in earlier Catholic thinking.

“He thinks there’s a way to, on the human level, welcome people, while on the sort of doctoral/moral level still have differences in opinion about behavior and life situations and things like that," Dr. Kohlhaas said.

Dubuque Archbishop Michael Jackels recently released a statement to TV9 saying, “Pope Francis has not and is not changing Church teaching. He is on record defending Holy Matrimony, and resisting efforts to redefine it.”

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